Bonnie Stern’s three favourite Vikram Vij recipes.
VANCOUVER’S VIKRAM VIJ MADE A NAME FOR HIMSELF WITH THESE DELICIOUS RECIPES
Vikram Vij is recognizable to most as the successful Vancouver restaurateur, television personality, celebrity chef and author of three cookbooks. But when you read his new memoir, Vij: a Chef’s One Way Ticket to Canada with Indian Spices in his Suitcases, you learn about the challenges he faced coming to Canada and making a name for himself.
Vikram’s story about his spirit of entrepreneurship and loving his new country but incorporating some of the traditions of his homeland, can’t help but resonate with the immigration issues in our current political climate. When Pierre Elliott Trudeau came to Vij’s award-winning and now world famous restaurant in Vancouver, Vikram was able to thank him personally for Canada’s immigration policies of the 1960s that enabled him to come to Canada.
Here are three recipes that I have always loved at Vij’s restaurant.
Vij’s has a no reservation policy — even for VIPs. But that doesn’t mean the restaurant doesn’t appreciate their customers. Every guest is welcomed with chai and appetizers and waiting in line is like a party! Vij’s wife and business partner, Meeru Dhalwala, developed this recipe originally and it’s still the one they serve today.
In his memoir, Vij says that Meeru has always been in charge of the all-female kitchen staff. She insists that all the food in their restaurants is prepared by immigrant women who do not have restaurant or chef experience. It is her way of giving women the chance her mother never had when she moved to North America.
5 1/2 cups water 15 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds 5 orange pekoe tea bags 1 to 2 tbsp sugar, or to taste 3/4 cup whole milk
1. Place water, cardamom and fennel in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently 2 minutes.
2. Add tea bags and sugar and boil one to two minutes or longer depending on how strong you like your tea. Remove tea bags.
3. Add milk and cook about a minute longer. Strain chai into a teapot and serve.
Makes 6 cups
LAMB ‘POPSICLES’ WITH CURRY CREAM
Vij’s lamb ‘popsicles’ are as delicious today as they were the first time I tasted them 20 years ago. Serve three or four as a main course with the sauce, or serve individually as an appetizer with the sauce for dipping.
This and the potato recipe are adapted from Meeru and Vij’s first cookbook Elegant and Inspired Vij’s Indian Cuisine. 1/4 cup grainy mustard 2 tbsp white wine 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 racks of lamb (Frenched) (about 8 chops each) (about 2 lbs total), cut between the bones into chops sauce: 3 tbsp vegetable oil 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tbsp) 1 tsp turmeric 2 cups whipping cream 1 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp kosher salt (or more to taste) 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Combine mustard, wine and salt. Smear over the lamb chops and marinate up to a few hours in the refrigerator.
2. Gently heat vegetable oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add turmeric and cook about one minute. Combine fenugreek, salt, paprika, cayenne and lemon juice with cream and add to saucepan. Heat gently and cook about five to 10 minutes until slightly thickened.
3. Just before serving cook lamb chops on the barbecue or in a grill pan a few minutes per side — they should be rare. Serve with sauce.
Makes 4 servings
TURMERIC POTATOES WITH SPINACH
These potatoes are perfect with the lamb popsicles but would be equally delicious with grilled steak or salmon. 3 tbsp vegetable oil 1 large onion, thinly sliced 1 tsp turmeric 2 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 2 lbs baby potatoes, sliced about 1/4” thick
1/4 cup water or more if necessary
3 oz baby spinach
1. Heat oil in a large, nonstick heavy skillet. Add onions and cook until just turning golden. Add turmeric, salt and cayenne. Cook one more minute.
2. Add potatoes and combine with onions. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally 10 to 20 minutes until potatoes are just tender. Add more water if potatoes stick.
3. Just before serving add spinach and cook just until slightly wilted.
Makes 4 servings National Post
Vikram Vij’s lamb ‘popsicles’ with tumeric potatoes are as scrumptious as ever, Bonnie Stern writes.